‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cheshire Cat. ‘I don’t much care where’ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go’ said the Cat. ‘…So long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation. ‘Oh you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
Good advice of course is easy to give and hard to hear. And the quality of any advice we give or get depends on how well we describe either our current situations…or our aspiration. In the case of Alice she sounds much more convinced that she needs to get away from where she is…than she is certain about where she wants to get to.
Both scenarios have merit. I dream of a situation where I would have absolute clarity and certainty about where I want to get to, or where an organisation I am working for wants to be, or needs to get to. We all define success or happiness in a different way. We all have different aspirations and desires for our careers in work and for our lives outside of work. But I am absolutely certain that standing still – sitting back and enjoying the status quo – is seldom a good choice.
Events transpire around us, to us or because of us all the time. We have to respond at the very least. To be able to pre-empt would be even better…but is evidently harder. We can’t stand still. We can’t rest on our laurels. We can’t rely on past achievements to guarantee future success. We have to move forward.
On old best friend at work once asked me why I talked about ‘opportunity space’ rather than simply opportunity when I was describing the future. Not only had I never thought about it…I wasn’t even aware that I used that expression! But I did and so I did.
Opportunity space is more vague. More general, more open. Opportunity space deliberately implies that although we may not be certain what we can achieve or even exactly where we are going…we can and should be certain that it will be engaging, exciting and rewarding. We can move forward for sure…but we have to stay open and flexible…be ready to respond and adapt.
I was at a global meeting last week, and I found myself thinking and talking about opportunity space all the time…and using a different word several times – misstep. As we move from where we are – or how we have been…as we move to a better place…as we move to work in a better and more rewarding way…it is inevitable that we will have some missteps on that path.
Indeed I would even go so far as to say that if we didn’t have any missteps then we are either not on a different path…or that we are not moving fast enough.
Missteps as we move through any change – inside or outside of work – are unavoidable. Missteps are a leading indicator that we are making progress. The challenge is to recognise a misstep quickly enough, and to be ready, able and willing to adapt.
And if we do it right, then not only do we have potential to advance from where we are today, but we also have potential to discover better things and better places in that opportunity space. To experience and enjoy reward or happiness we were not able to conceive of, let alone define, as we started our journey together.
Together. With colleagues or friends or family. With each other